Vail Christian spikers off to regionals
EDWARDS – A road trip to Gunnison isn’t fun for any team in the state.
But, when you consider that the Vail Christian football team is going to Holly, four miles from the Kansas border, for its second-round, state-playoff game, the Saints volleyball team’s trip Saturday to Gunnison for regionals is just a hop, skip and a jump by comparison.
“I don’t envy the football players at all,” Saints coach Cathy Alexander joked. “That’s a long trip.”
That having been said, the Saints spikers probably wouldn’t give a hoot if regionals were in Craig, Telluride, Julesburg or Holly, for that matter.
That’s because they’re in the regional tournament for the first time in school history, one of just 16 teams in the state still dancing.
The mission is simple – win two of three from Primero (10:30 a.m.), DeBeque (noon) and Sierra Grande (3 p.m.) – and the Saints will have gone from 1-5 in 2002 to the state tournament in 2003.
DeBeque is the only known quantity for the Saints in this round-robin tournament. The Dragons have taken all three meetings from the Saints, but all three contests have been close. Vail Christian’s first goal, of course, is to make state. But, finally taking out DeBeque (21-3) would be the icing on the cake.
“What we’ve learned is the way they like to play defense,” Alexander said. “They’re a defensive team. They don’t let balls hit the floor. So, what we’re trying to do is basically force the mistakes on their side.”
Then there are Primero and Sierra Grande. Primero, located in Weston, 21 miles west of Trinidad, enters 22-0, but it’s hard to gauge the Bulldogs’ talent. They’ve played mostly small, mountain teams, so their strength of schedule is somewhat suspect.
“I’ve talked to one of the coaches who played them. Primero, they say, has one girl who’s really really good,” Alexander said. “She hits from anywhere and everywhere. So, I don’t know.”
Then there’s Sierra Grande, from Blanca, 21 miles east of Alamosa. Sierra’s ledger on Rockypreps.com is incomplete. So, the Saints have no idea to expect from the Panthers.
“If we don’t know how they play, we’re just going to have to approach them as if they’re the state champions,” Vail Christian senior Brooke Horan-Kates said. “They obviously worked hard to get here because we did too. We have to go in, knowing that they’re good.”
If history is any guide, the teams from Region 1 – this year, the Saints and DeBeque – go through to Denver, as opposed the Region 6 representatives – Primero and Sierra Grande.
But, please, don’t talk to Alexander about that.
“I know they probably have read it and talked about it,” Alexander said. “But, we haven’t talked about it as a team. We really are focusing on our first two matches, which are Primero and DeBeque first. We’re trying to prepare for them mentally with the knowledge that, if we win just two, more than likely, we’re going on.”
Alexander’s charges seem to have bought into that rationale.
“Coach Alexander just makes us look at one step at a time,” senior Brittany Wright said. “At districts, she was just saying that, “We have to win this game first, before going on.’ She really kept us focused. We aren’t looking at state yet. Our first job is to win the first game of regionals.”
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.